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Virus claims the 'jewel in the crown' for pilgrims at Knock



Fr Richard Gibbons, rector of Knock Shrine, Co Mayo

Fr Richard Gibbons, rector of Knock Shrine, Co Mayo

Fr Richard Gibbons, rector of Knock Shrine, Co Mayo

This year's National Novena at Knock Shrine has been postponed, the latest religious event to fall foul of the Covid-19 battle.

Fr Richard Gibbons, rector of the popular Co Mayo shrine, announced that the novena, which has been run continuously since 1977 and attracts up to 150,000 pilgrims every August, would not be taking place next month in the interests of health and safety.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Fr Gibbons said: "It is a great disappointment. The novena is the jewel in the crown for the pilgrimage season. We are postponing because it is the right thing to do; we are very conscious of the health and safety of parishioners, pilgrims, priests, our staff and volunteers. Everybody has to be kept safe. People visiting have to be sure that the place is safe to come to."

The parish priest said the cancellation of the novena would have "huge economic consequences not only for the shrine itself, but also for the wider community in Knock".

Since the easing of the Covid-19 restrictions allowing for a limited return to public Masses, the shrine has noticed more visitors.

"That gave us cause for concern about the novena," Fr Gibbons said. "The shrine can cope because we have over 100 acres of ground, so people can socially distance very safely. We have everything marked out in our shops and churches and strict queuing and social distance measures are applied. But because of the numbers we have been seeing, the Covid committee thought it prudent not to have the novena.

"It's the same story for many places and events across the country; it is important to be responsible and trust in God next year will be much better."

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